The female reproductive system is strongly influenced by a variety of hormones, each of which play a different part in fertility and eventually pregnancy. While it’s normal for women to have slightly different hormonal levels at any given time, a continued imbalance of hormones may lead to a number of fertility problems such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In addition to its effects on fertility, PCOS can also lead to long-term systemic diseases. As a result, women should seek PCOS treatment, both for their reproductive health and overall well-being.
In vitro fertilization is one such treatment option available at our Los Angeles fertility clinic, but there are multiple ways to offset the effects of PCOS. If you suspect you have this condition or have already been diagnosed, consider which option is most appropriate for you.
Why Does PCOS Occur?
Before seeking treatment, it is a good idea to understand exactly what PCOS is and why it occurs. Ultimately, PCOS is the result of an overabundance of testosterone in the female body. When testosterone levels are too high in relation to estrogen levels, the body may cease the production of progesterone - the hormone responsible for regulating ovulation. Consequently, a woman may suffer from infertility along with other negative physical reactions such as weight gain, thickening body hair, acne, skin discoloration, and (as the condition’s name suggests) ovarian cysts.
PCOS Treatment Options
Treatment for PCOS depends on multiple factors. First, a patient must decide whether she wishes to treat the condition itself or its effects. If the main effect of PCOS is infertility, but no other symptoms are severe or problematic, she may opt for fertility treatment alone. Another factor to consider is the patient’s timetable: how long is the patient willing to wait before ovulation resumes, and what steps is she willing to take in order to accomplish this? Refer to the below treatment options in order to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each:
- Weight loss: Just as obesity is a symptom of PCOS, it is also a contributing factor to the condition. Oftentimes, patients with PCOS can treat their condition by losing about 10 percent of their body weight, thereby returning their hormonal levels to a healthier, more natural state. Even for patients without PCOS, a healthy BMI is greatly beneficial to fertility and successful pregnancy.
- Medication: Female birth control pills normally prevent pregnancy by boosting estrogen and progesterone levels, thus creating an artificial imbalance of hormones to induce infertility. However, if testosterone levels are high, a low dosage of this medication may actually create a balance to promote fertility. These hormones may be administered orally or via injection.
- In vitro fertilization: During the IVF process, ovulation can be induced through injectable hormones. One or more healthy eggs can then be fertilized outside the body, before being transferred into the uterus for implantation. Due to its relatively high success rates and precise monitoring and manipulation of hormone levels, IVF is a good way to overcome infertility from PCOS.
- Surgical diathermy: Also called ovarian drilling, this procedure uses an electrical current to remove a small layer of tissue from the ovaries. This slows hormone production, promoting hormonal balance and eventual ovulation. This technique is considered a minor surgery, as it uses laparoscopic tools and has the potential to leave small scars.
Additional Suggestions for Treatment
No matter which treatment option you pursue, remember that a healthy lifestyle should always be at the top of your priorities. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, strive to eat a balanced diet, including adequate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Regular exercise is equally important, especially to offset the effects that PCOS may have on your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
Smokers are also advised to abstain from tobacco products, as smoking tends to increase testosterone levels. Tobacco also decreases fertility overall and poses additional risks during pregnancy. For more information on recommended lifestyle changes for women with PCOS, consult an experienced fertility specialist.
Our physicians and gynecology experts are prepared to help you overcome any issues of fertility or reproductive health. To learn more about PCOS or for any similar concerns, contact our office to schedule your next appointment with us.